Thursday, 25 July 2013

Of Love, Of Life

“One,two..One two” Khushboo grooved to the latest dance steps taught by her choreographer. He opened the door and silently let himself in, inwardly admiring the gracious steps of Khushboo. Khushboo Garewal was the daughter of construction magnate Vijay Garewal. She was headstrong and wanted things her way only. It was either her way or the highway. That was why she had refused her fathers tailor made job offer and instead ventured out for modeling.  She had the X-factor which many others were missing and which often becomes the ticket to stardom in the entertainment industry. She knew that for herself. She had got the opportunity to show her talent at many national and international platforms and she was indeed appreciated yet she was miles away from what she desired. Her career was heading northwards now and she was fully interested in it.

Akshay knew this streak of hers and he always felt wary of confessing his love only because of this reason. For a successful name like her, she should have had at least a dozen relationships by now, had she been someone else. But Khushboo was much focused. She was so engrossed in her profession that she hardly had time for her family or for any other relation. However she always managed time for Akshay. Whenever she would get some time for herself she would instantly inform Akshay who would leave everything at bay to just spend time with her. They would go on dates, on vacations, even kissed but Khushboo was not just willing to take this to the next level. Not that she faced resistance from her family or other external factors it was just resistance from her soul which she could not help but comply with. Khushboo, in many ways, reminded Akshay of his commitment phobic fraternal who was also the same when it came to relationships. Only that Shaan had at least had a century of affairs while Khushboo had none, till date.
However Akshay had accepted her in every sense, as she was. The problem was with Madhvi. She was always hell bent on him marrying a traditional girl who could fit into the concept of a “regular bride”. The choice of bride was not a problem. Getting Madhvi round to accepting Khushboo as a Daughter-In-Law was not a problem. Making Khushboo agree to the proposal was one. Khushboo wanted to live a free life laced with ambitions and dreams and occasional glimpses of love provided by her family and a casual relationship. Nothing more than that. When Akshay heard about Khanak, he did not know what to say. Khanak was the only woman Akshay was close to after Madhvi and Khushboo. She had been his best friend and to tell the truth he had even contemplated about dating her. However things did not progress much as they two lived in opposite corners of the country. And even Akshay had dropped the idea later but now Madhvi had dropped a bomb by proposing her name.
An hour and a half passed by as Khushboo grooved to the steps with utmost perfection and practiced each a dozen times in between stealing glances at Akshay and asking him how it was, through her eyes. Akshay, time and again, kept applauding her through signs as he did always. After she completed her performance she came down to sit with him. She gulped water down her throat as if she had been thirsty  for decades.
“Mom wants me to marry somewhere”. (A silent and out-of-the-blue declaration)
“Then oblige her”(All she could manage)

“Tor mone hoy ami emon kichu  korte pari ja tor kharap korbe(Do you think I can do something which hurts you)?” Subarnalata patted her daughters head fondly. She had broken the news about Akshay to her, finally. She had not dared to tell this to Shankar or her husband before because she knew that Khanak would then straight dismiss the proposal. She knew Madhvi very well. Both of them were Bangladeshi immigrants. They had grown up together under the patronage of their Zamindaar legacy. However partition changed it all. The muslims and rajakars murdered their fathers and their families had to somehow seek refuge in West Bengal. They both had been bosom friends in village and their friendship continued in Kolkata until one day Madhvi left for Delhi to pursue her higher studies while Subarnalata was married off at a tender age. Much had happened in their lives but now life had once again given them a brilliant opportunity to reconcile. More so, she considered Akshay as a perfect partner for Khanak, considering his family values, his “not in the rat race” attitude, his simple living yet high thinking and a perfect family lineage. What more could she ask for? Madhvis younger son was nearer to Khanak in terms of age but that said he failed on all other fronts.
Subarnalata lowered her head and saw that Khanak was fast asleep in her dreams. She looked just like a baby, she thought. She caressed the strands of hair on her cheek and silently put her daughters head on the pillow. She got up and walked off.
Khanak was in a half-sleep. She had known Akshay for over a decade now. He was mostly an introvert romantic, too shy in the presence of women. They had gelled together pretty well and had been the best of friends at a certain point of time. He was one of those friends whom she would meet occasionally especially when their families met each other. She had even thought that Akshay harboured secret feelings for her, but that might just have been her exaggeration. Time had passed too fast and she had hardly met him over the years. He had gone to Singapore for a couple of years and that was when she had last met him. Khanak had seen romantic mushy mushy movies onscreen but she well knew that she did not desire such kind of love. She always wanted her relationship to be realist and pragmatic. She was so concerned with other aspects of life that she could hardly give in to an overtly romantic relationship which would consume her existence. She could never carry the burden of such a close relationship. Though she loved to love and to be loved she was pretty careful in choosing relationships and she wanted her relationships to be casual yet affectionate, she did not want to love anyone beyond a certain level or crave for anyone. In simple words she wanted to keep it simple yet sweet!

“Maybe I should talk to Suraj.” She concluded.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Zindaagi Returns

 She ate in the deafening silence which had almost become the norm of dining in this apartment. She swallowed the soup somehow which Kanta Bai had made. She did not feel like eating anything else. After an exhausting emotional journey of seven odd years, it was going to end finally-all end.
From where she stood she could only foresee darkness in her future. Apart from her engagement with Dharti and her career, she did not have anything else that could help her pass the time. How on earth was she supposed to spend her lazy Sunday mornings if not waking up that person for whom she has eaten , breathed and lived all these years, whose very existence was a critical requirement for hers, or for that matter how will she spend the lazy afternoons at office, if not  blabbering and chatting with that exacting personality?
She tried to concentrate on food and the very sleep which had eluded her eyes now came heavy on her eyelids.
She woke up to the sound of the latch, knowing that he had come. He entered the room dressed in a crisp white shirt and blue jeans looking very much fresh from the shower. He opened his night glasses and kept them on the table adjacent to the door and turned and locked the entrance to this posh apartment of juhu.
"How was the evening with Natasha?", she asked the wrong question.
"Huh?" , he feigned to have not heard.
She let it go with a sigh.
He was proceeding towards the bedroom when she called out to him "Umm''..I'''..ummm..actually'I had not planned it''actually it is on jyoti's insistence that I have to'"
"Baat kya hai?" (direct and straight to the point not liking the "beating around the bush" way)
"I m leaving tomorrow."
A deafening silence once again descends on the apartment like a Corvus perching on a branch. Only that this silence is more conspicuous by absence of sound and not the crass cacophony as in the case of the avian.

7years ago
"Oth re Maa amar", the petite lady in red saree ordered the sleeping figure to break away from the shackles of sleep and come into the real world'

"Not now Maa" ,the figure murmured a soft plea wriggling under the blanket a little.

"Aajke ki janish tui??Aajke Mahalaya" the lady banged her head in frustration and walked away.
The figure wriggled a little more and her soft eyes moved a little contemplating the situation.
Mahalaya meant the 'agaman' or arrival of the super deity, the mother of all gods and it meant Mahashashti was only a few days away which will mark the beginning of the one of the  most celebrated community festivals worldwide.
Outside an untimely cyclone which had persisted for a few days had made the weather cold and breezy. The combination of Mahalaya and cloudy weather was something which was considered very auspicious by some and nostalgic by some others.
"Dadu must have gone to the ghats to do 'tarpan' " she realized "I need to talk to him when he returns" she bit her lower lip considering the gravity of the situation.

The Hovering Skies

"Dadu must have gone to the ghats to do 'tarpan' " she realized "I need to talk to him when he returns" she bit her lower lip considering the gravity of the situation.

That Day,New York
She   woke up from the bed with the most terrible headache. Her vision had not steadied and she could hardly see things. A layer of mist had enveloped her eyes. She felt so helpless that she wanted to cry! People who had known her would obviously dismiss it as a joke on the behalf of the writer because she and crying just did not gel together!
  With closed eyes, she fumbled for her phone and on finding it on the side table , instinctually dialed that one number for which neither did she require eyes nor a perfect timing.
"HELLO DEAR" the voice on the other side sounded amused.
"Kya hua??Itna daat kyun dikha raha hain?" she was visibly irritated.
"Bas yun hi.Tera chehra imagine karke"he laughed even more.
"Chup bey" she was back to her own self.

The instant camaraderie of these two friends was one of its kind and the whole city could swear on that.
"Listen tu mujhe kal yahaan chhod ke gaya tha na?" she inquired despite knowing the answer.

"Aur kaun .Asmaan se tera boyfriend toh nahi aayega I presume"he replied nonchalantly.

She marveled at the genuity of this guy. Not that she was not aware of it earlier but he just proved himself to be a man of callibre with every passing moment.

She had slowly and steadily climbed down the stairs of fame and that was why she had only a few friends left and he definitely was the closest of them.
She could not simply digest the fact that she had to get herself drunk at a low class pub in Brooklyn, but here was this guy who had no qualms in bringing her home from that destination and tolerating her shit.
"Come here" she said " I need to talk to you and you need to make me a hot cup of your signature coffee." She smiled and hung up.

He hung up the phone too wondering if he should share the good news with her.

Back in Kolkata
She was pacing her room considering the ifs and buts and the resistance she will face from her family members.

Just then a swift breeze hit her nose but not with the smell of rain outside but with the tasty smell of hinger kochuri. She was at once delighted. "Mama" she leaped in joy for she knew this smell was the sign of her maternal uncle.
(Hinger kochuri is a traditional dish made in Bengal with the recipe of normal kachaouri just that the tadka of hing is added in it)

She descended the steps like a thunderbolt and was pleased to find one of the most pleasant beings with one of her most favourite dishes. She leaped up and jumped into the arms of her uncle. I love you so much mama, she cried out loud and kissed him strongly on the cheeks.
"Arrey baba.Have it first and then hug me." He smiled and patted her back.
She ravenously settled for the food with her dirty hands and not brushed teeth and did not even wait for a plate but started gorging the food.
"Do we not feed you and keep you hungry?" she asked in an irritated tone.
She started to reply with her mouth full of food but she immediately stopped her daughter raising her hand to which her uncle had a hearty laugh seeing the mother daughter banter.
No one could tell that it was the same girl who had worked for women emancipation for so long and only last month she had mesmerized everyone with her speech in Finland at a convention of the United Nations.
It was just that the demure and restrained being in her was replaced by an adamant and stubborn child every time she witnessed something which was too close to her heart or too appalling. It was this trait in her which had made Subarnalata worry for her daughter. Her overtly emotional conscience could just make the tough world a bit tougher for her. This was what she feared as a mother.

That was why she had chosen the right guy for her. She just hoped her daughter will behave sane and not go all out in protesting the marriage. After all this was a question of prestige in front of her childhood buddy Madhavi Sen.

Just then a hustle near the porch proved that the 'bodo-korta' of the house was back.
"I say let us ticket Nripendra Biswas this time in the Lok Sabha by-elections. He is the best bet and can really make us win the seat varna opinion polls ki halat toh aap jante hi hai."
Dressed in a sober white dhoti and with the upanayana thread tied around his body a grave figure entered the house with intent interest to the conversation but eyes fixed in the front.
"Since when did I start caring about opinion polls Vrajesh?" he gave a sly smile.
"And yes we will ticket Sutapa Sen this time. Inform the high command." he walked away.
"But Sir'."a stupefied Vrajesh wanted to reply but his plaints were no longer audible to the figure who walked away in grandeur and he did not even need to hear as his job of casting the die was over.
Such was the charisma of Shankar Roy Chowdhury.

Chapter2- Preludes Alludes
New York

"Kya hua meri bijli rani?" he teased her pulling her cheeks, and having a hearty laugh once again .
"Whats ur probs Shanky?" she asked visibly more irritated than ever.
It was so rare that Shanky instead of chiding her was looking so amused.
It was the consequent third time in the day where she has heard him laughing so much!
After all Shantanu Khandelwal was a very refined, calm, intelligent and obviously very very hot guy who was an immensely successful business tycoon as well!
He did not bother to reply, just went around her apartment whistling.
"Are you going to let words come out of your bl**dy mouth" she could not control it any long. He stopped midway in his tracks looked back at her with an amused expression, raised his eyebrows and said "Waah kya baat hai" sat down on the chair, took a drink from the refrigerator and continued his whistling, unperturbed. When she stared at him with an angry expression, he once again shrugged and said "What?"
She exhaled a deep breath and said "You broke up again, did not you?"( fearful of the obvious)
He again shrugged and his face broke into a thousand watt smile showing his sparkling whites. She was once again mesmerized by his beauty but decided to rather pursue her agenda than to get distracted.
"And you again made me the excuse" stressing on 'me' (hurt and dejected)
"Well ya sort of" he tried to avoid the confrontation as he knew it will hurt his best buddy.
"Shantanu" exasperated, she left a sigh, "you know you are not doing me any justice. Why the bl**dy hell do you use me as an excuse for your break ups?" she asked with her eyes moist.
"SShhh", he tried to calm her and soothe her."Don't cry babes. It isn't like that what you are thinking."
"Like that? Like what?" she freed herself from his embrace by giving a fiery jolt. "My best friend here uses me as a damn reason for his every breakup with god knows which sl*t and you expect me to be cheerful and happy" she was raining fire through her blood red eyes.
"It's not like that. Laura and I were not comfortable with the progress of our relationship. She wanted to patch up with her ex-boyfriend and she wasn't even too comfortable with our friendly relationship. So we sort of decided it" he shrugged off.
He seated himself beside her and squeezed her shoulders "I know you feel like you are creating hindrances in my love life but trust me that's not true. It was all but love between me and Laura or for that matter any girl I have dated in the past two years."
"Chup kar khotheya" she pushed him once more.
He made a mock face of being hurt "Waise I like the fiery Punjabi from your luscious lips" he made a dreamy expression.
"Chal hat badtameeez. Moo na tod doon tera main. Awaara kahin ka. Waise yeh Laura bhi toh tera best friend ki girlfriend thi use bhi nahi chhoda saale *******"
"Tere se kaun flirt karna chahta hain. Main ladki thodi na hoon" he smiled a mock shy smile.
"Poor joke tha" she said getting up.
"Tere saath acchi wali marni bhi nahin hai mujhe. Chal tayyar ho 'Dj vu' mein ek round mar ke ate hain" he got up as well.
"Sun, tu India ja raha hain, hain na?" she asked a bit serious, bit worried.
"I guess I wont deny,kyun tujhe bhi jana hain kya?" when she kept quiet he could decipher the affirmative reply "But shaadi toh mere bhai Akshay ki hain na" (tad bit confused)
"Abbey bewakuf insaan.Uske saath shaadi meri behen Khanak ki hi ho rahi hain. Khanak Chowdhury" she gave a dry smile.
"Haan woh Mother India" he blurted some abusive under his breath which she was sure was directed towards Khanak.
He made his way out of the front gate towards the porch.
"Pata nahin isse Khanak se itni problem kyun hai" she shrugged off and started to get ready as she knew it was useless to decipher her messed up friend."
"***hole" she muttered under her breath and giggled.
Kolkata that very day
She woke up from her sleep and it was pretty early by her standards. She drank water off the jug, yawned a couple of times , checked out her messy self in the mirror, smiled to herself, wore her chappals and opened the windows to get some fresh air. As usual, it was cloudy today also.
Subarnalata, at once, came into her room and gave her some tika and chanted mantra for the 454th time since yesterday.
"Ma" she requested though still much in sleep.
"Chup kar. Aaj tere results aane wale hain. Aaj ke din toh thoda uss upar wale se dar le" she fumed and went away to prepare for some puja.
Khanak stifled a laugh at her mom's hysterics. She loves me too much, she concluded. Only if her other daughter was also here.
She dressed herself up and touched the feet of every elder in the household which was an exception from the daily trend of touching only her ma and dadu's feet because today her results would be out.
She sat in front of the laptop and refreshed the page dozen of times, amidst answering a hundred calls. While Shankar remained seated in his rocking chair and was calmly eyeing his granddaughter, Subarnalata was busy going in and out of the mandir and also answering a few dozen inquiries on her mobile. Everyone else was two timing between their daily chores and comforting Khanak excluding mama who sat there taking digs at khanak's nervous situation.
"Results are out" she screamed out. She at once entered her roll number and sent a silent prayer to god.
"What!!" she screamed out, her lungs ready to explode. "Five" she muttered silently.
"Five" Subarnalata repeated that feeling every system in her body close down temporarily.
"That's Ninety five ma, Ninety five!!" she let out a loud shriek and rushed to hug her mom who hadn't still recovered from the shock.
"AA..aa.." Subarnalata muttered while celebrations started all around the household and news started to spread that she was the most probable university topper.
"God now I can safely talk to Madhvi" she uttered in a low voice.

However someone's ears cocked up at this new piece of information.

Khanak was beginning to hear this name, too much lately. She wondered what her mother was up to. 'Mom and her weird ways' she concluded with a sigh. But she did not have much time to ponder about these things as she was soon crowded with pishsis, kakimas, nanis, nanas, fufis etc gathered around her. All the dry wishes, plastic smiles, congratulations with latent jealousy in them suffocated her to death. She was surprised to notice how Subarnalata was enjoying all this attention. Shankar was happy for her and left immediately after her results were announced. She knew how much he loved her. Even though election season was about to begin he cancelled all his meetings for the day which included important ones concerning ticket distribution and stayed at home just for her. She knew he hated over display of emotions otherwise she would have just hugged him and said "I love you Dadu".
All the hubbub and humdrum was really getting on her nerves. She excused herself and went to her room upstairs and passed into a blissful nap.
New York
"Mere sapno ki rani kab aayegi tu bit jaayein zindagani kab aayegi tu" he sang along. "Ishh Shanky " she closed her ears "Just stop it."
He just flashed his besharam smile once again with his sparkling whites. "Tu itna behuda flirting karta hain toh yeh saari ladkiyaan tere peeche kyun marti hain, mujhe toh aaj tak samajh mein nahin aaya"
He just smiled in reply kept his hands on both her shoulders and slightly pressed her shoulders with his weight which again earned a glare from her. "Because my dear" he whistled, raised his collars a bit and waved his hands in air, "I am Shantanu Khandelwal, their hero." and flashed a toothy smile once again.

"But you fikar not" he placed his hand on his chest and furrowed his eyebrows a bit which was part of his assuring antics which led her to smile inwardly "You are not a girl. So you are safe from me."

"Very good joke!" she huffed and started walking fast.

"Have you heard a better one dear" he raised his voice a bit, laughed heartily and followed her.
They seated themselves and found their own favourite delicacies she- pasta with hot sauce and he simply a chocolate coffee.
'That reminds me" she spoke with a mouthful and in response he lifted his eyebrows a little from the drink and said "Hmmm?"  and again dropped them to the drink , "Of a certain personality who does not like you a bit" she narrowed her eyes on him with a mischievous glint in them.
"And who the hell is that poor soul with a poor choice" he stifled a laugh.
"Kh..a..n..a..k" she said completely savouring the word with stress on each syllable.

He coughed so loudly that all the eyes in the caf zeroed in on them.
He stabilised himself a bit and said "I do not care about her. She  simply does not match up to my standards" and made an I-don't-care face.
"By standards, if you mean wearing skimpy clothes and behaving sl*tty then no doubt she is way above that!" she concluded defeating him in his own argument.
This hit him sharp in his heart. He had known about his image in the eyes of the people. He was a Casanova as per the popular judgement. However least did he bother about such prejudices.
He knew that deep down his heart he was the same family man every girl would wish for, he respected women, never shied away from his responsibilities, was a charmer, excellent in oratory skills, had a sense of social responsibility and all. However there was another facet to his character which included random relationships, dumping girls within a week, dating multiple women together, commitment wary and all.
It was very difficult to correlate the two and hence people only saw one version of him which was generally the latter one. While he was very happy with his status he knew there were very few girls who were unattainable to him because of his character. It was pretty easy to dismiss them as "behenjis'" but that was not the case with Khanak. She was smart, independent, modern, non judgemental, caring and affectionate just the type that would be every mans' fantasy. However he had to resign himself to the fact that girls like her were unattainable to him but she was the exact type he wanted-tailor made. To sum up, he was simply not happy with what he was getting but on the other hand he could not provide enough to get what he wished for.
"Lucky bas***d Akshay" he murmured.
"What?" She asked furrowing her eyes.
"Nothing Yaara. Chal chaltein hain."
"But.." she was utterly bewildered on seeing him walk away abruptly.
Same day
He is seen wearing a crisp white shirt and a helmet on his head. His one foot is inside a small depression and he is looking intently at it. The other is on the ground. There are loud sounds of machines drilling, hammers working, people shouting. The mid-day sun is hovering high above the ground providing its direct rays on the people who, as a result, are sweating profusely! He says something to the engineer and opens his helmet to walk into his lavish office. He settles down on his chair, loosens his shirt and switches on the fan and after waiting for sometime switches on the AC.  He passes into a blissful nap which is disturbed by the incessant ringing of his phone. He is visibly disturbed and raises his eyebrows and finally leans forward to take the call. "Hello" grudging and sleepy.
"Where the hell are you Akshay??I have been constantly ringing you for about 2 hours."Madhvis' angry voice loomed.
"Nothing Mom, just the usual site business." (tired)
"Aww my poor baby. Don't worry life will not be the same anymore for you-dull boring and lacklustre. Something interesting will happen soon. Anyway you gotta get home soon today."
"Ya ..but..Mom" he tried to fathom but she had already disconnected.

"I wonder what Mom is up to." (totally clueless)